How not to Screw up Making 3D Characters for Your Mobile Game
Character Modeling Mistakes
There are many components to a successful game, from addictive mechanics and memorable aesthetics to catchy tunes. However, none of those will make a game relatable – that role is reserved exclusively to characters.
In fact, sometimes making a strong, memorable character is enough to win the best game design award. However, the opposite is also true, with bland protagonists spelling failure for an otherwise good product. Below are some insights into the 3D character design to help game developers stay in the first category.
Character Modeling Mistakes
Character modeling is a diverse field in mobile game development, which means that a lot of things can go wrong. However, a danger foreseen is half avoided, so here’s what you should watch out for:
Letting Ambition Loose
Many iconic character designs look like a result of unbound creativity running wild, so you might be willing to take this route as well. Unless you have a ton of experience in the development industry, this will be your first and most serious mistake. Aiming high is a great way to set the bar of quality, but only as long as you are realistic about what you can achieve.
The fact is, 3D modeling is a laborious, lengthy, and occasionally tedious process that will eat up your inspiration when tackled head-on.
Choosing the Wrong Tools
The field of mobile game development is brimming with all sorts of instruments for 3D design. Most of these are industry veterans with tons of features and quality-of-life improvements that promise to make your job a breeze.
However, the history of video game development has many tales of spectacular failures due to something as trivial as choosing the wrong game engine. Be sure you understand what you need and whether the tools you are going to use match your goals.
Playing It (Too) Safe
There are many marketing experts out there that will be happy to explain what players expect from character design and how to meet these expectations best. Perhaps the easiest one is a gritty and edgy protagonist for an action title. All you’ll need are these ingredients:
● A shaved head
● A badass beard
● An oversized armor plate
● An impractical yet cool-looking weapon
And presto – you just assembled a solid, if somewhat bland, main character. Simply put, checking with trends is good, overusing them – less so.
Relying On Fleeting Trends
Mobile game development is a far more dynamic field than its console counterpart, making it highly responsive to current events and trends. This may be both a blessing and a curse, as was best demonstrated with the Plague Inc. craze triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The same applies to character design: using a current theme may grant you a surge in downloads early on, but once the idea gets stale, so does the game.
Try making your characters as context-neutral as possible (and let’s hope the COVID outbreak is indeed a passing thing that nobody will remember in a few years).
Creating a Good Character: Where to Start
As mentioned above, 3D modeling is lengthy and elaborate, so getting it right in one sweeping move is probably not happening. To get things right, you need to start with a plan.
- Draft the description and outline the requirements
- Create concept art
- Sculpt the 3D model
- Create a UV map and apply textures
- Test and adjust
As you can see, only the stages in the middle involve the actual modeling, which is probably the reason drafting and testing are sometimes skipped on. However, these are actually the ones that will help to weed out bad decisions and to refine the final product, so don’t forget to use them to your advantage.
Tips for Character Creation
Finally, here are a couple of tips to add a dash of uniqueness to your design.
● Don’t Cling to Details: While some models may benefit from rich details, others will just look excessive. To stay on the safe side, leave only what’s absolutely necessary.
● Exaggerate: Choose a personality trait and make sure it’s visible. If the tone of the game permits it, make it REALLY stand out.
● Harmonize with Environment: Don’t shy away from contrast, yet try not to break the tone by going too far out.
● Mind the Stereotypes: Using recognizable tropes is part of good game design. Confusing them with stereotypes is a sure way to get bad reviews.
● Be Bold: It is not the polygon count that makes characters memorable, so add at least one twist that will differentiate them from the crowd.
Design is a blend of skill and creativity, so it cannot really be described in concrete terms. Because of this, any advice on it is either too general to be helpful or too specific to fit into your project. So, if you set out for a perfect character, don’t hesitate to pick and choose the bits you find useful, discard those that restrict your artistic freedom, and never stop practicing.
Sophie Zoria is a passioned journalist writing about tech and marketing trends, mobile apps, and design. Check out her Medium page: https://medium.com/@sophie_65309